Step Up All In
(PG) 2.5 out of 5
Director: Trish Sie.
Cast: Ryan Guzman, Briana Evigan, Adam Sevani, Stephen Jones, Izabella Miko, Chadd Smith.
THE Step Up series is now five films long - that's as many movies as Die Hard, Dirty Harry, and Twilight.
Judging by this longevity, the franchise is evidently doing something right, and that something is dancing.
Throughout the series, which launched the career of Channing Tatum way back when it began in 2006, Step Up films have thrived on their truly stunning dance sequences, which have been consistently impressive and innovative.
The biggest drawback has been that when you remove the popping, locking, crunking and breaking from the equation, what is left is a level of melodrama, shorthanded plotting, and lame characterisation usually reserved for movies made for the Disney Channel.
Fans of the series don't care about that though. They'll just be happy to see lots of dancing and so many returning faces - Andie from #2, Camille from #1 and #3, Monster from #2 and #3, the Santiago twins from #3, Sean from #4, and that guy that does The Robot really, really well in #3 and #4.
These people, and then some, team up to form a crew called LMNTL (that's pronounced 'Elemental', not 'Lemon Tell' apparently), who enter Las Vegas dance competition The Vortex, which promises the winner a three-year residency in Vegas.
Sean (Guzman), who was the focal point of the last film, has set up LMNTL after falling out with his old Miami crew The Mob, so naturally The Mob will be competing against LMNTL in The Vortex at some point. And Sean doesn't get along with his new crewmate Andie (Evigan), so naturally they'll fall in love and learn to trust each other at some point.
This level of predictability has been ever-present in the Step Up series, where every plot is just a minor variation on the previous one and merely a vague excuse to unleash its trump card of killer dance routines. These movies are to teenage girls what shoot-'em action movies are to teenage boys - predictable plotting surrounding slight reasons for the actiony bits.
When the film puts on its dancing shoes, it wins. A "mad professor" themed sequence LMNTL uses as its entry submission for The Vortex is very cool, and the grand finale is a jaw-dropper, especially considering the film has managed to up the impressiveness with each subsequent routine.
The stellar choreography and dance performances are almost enough to distract from the endless Vegas montages, the lame subplots that are resolved in two seconds, the unintentionally hilarious "villains", and "laughs" that fall flat on their faces.
It feels futile poking holes in the non-dancing moments or the wasted opportunites, such as a subplot about The Vortex competition being filmed for reality TV which is underused and proves inconsequential. The people who loved the previous films will probably turn up en masse to see this.
And realistically, it's all about the cool dance moves, which Step Up All In has in spades.